Battle with mental illness
I was diagnosed with depression, a very common mental illness, in 2003. I was 18 years old then. It was a diagnosis I was ashamed of and I rarely talked about. Because of that, I carried my burden of shame around for years. Finally, in 2012 I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed to do something to cope with my depression and ultimately the shame I felt because of that. So I took up running in 2012 and it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.
Towards the end of 2012, my depression once again reared its ugly head, bringing along its friend anxiety. I was miserable, felt isolated, couldn’t eat, and couldn’t run. My days were spent in my tiny apartment, laying on my bed, staring at the ceiling, and wondering why I existed. One day, while shuffling through my apartment, my bright running shoes caught my eye. I didn’t feel like running at ALL, but knew I could probably manage a walk. Slowly, over the course of several months, I was back to running 1, 2, 3 miles at a time. By the end of 2013, I was back to running 5Ks races. In 2015, I mustered up the courage to register for my first marathon and in October of that year, I ran my first 20-mile run as preparation for the Grand Rapids Marathon.
To commemorate my longest run ever and my journey with a mental illness, I got a tattoo. It says “Still I run” and it’s my spin on the well know Maya Angelou poem “Still I rise”. The main theme throughout the poem is one of triumph over hardships in life.
I changed it to “Still I run” because running is what has helped me cope over the past couple of years. It has shown me I’m stronger than I think. Running is a mental game, more than it’s a physical one and the longer I run, the more I realize how strong I am. Running grounds me and reminds me that even though I have depression, I still have the strength to get up out of bed and run.
The semicolon in the middle of the phrase, that also stands as the “I”, is because of the #semicolonproject. The project is a movement that offers love and hope to those that struggle with mental illness. Why a semicolon? It can be best summed up with the mission statement of the project – “A semicolon is used when an author could have chosen to end their sentence but chose not to. You are the author, the sentence is your life. For anyone suffering from depression, anxiety, self-harm, contemplating suicide, you are not alone. You are worthy. You are loved.”
I chose the color green for the semicolon because that’s the color of the awareness ribbon for mental health awareness.
Lastly, the arrow. An arrow is representative of life. Sometimes you get pulled back, but sometimes you have to get pulled back to be propelled forward towards your target.
Oh and as for the placement on my arm? It’s so I can look at it every time I run. And every time I want to quit and give up, I’ll just look down and remember that no matter what “I still rise.”